WASHINGTON — The federal government said Friday that it will commit a scientific agency and launch a national commission to tackle recurring concerns about the quality of forensic evidence used in criminal courts nationwide.
A new National Commission on Forensic Science will draft proposals for the U.S. attorney general and Justice Department and draw from expert groups led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the departments announced.
The decision comes four years after the National Academy of Sciences urged the White House and Congress to remove crime labs from police and prosecutors’ control or at least to improve standards for crime labs, examiners and researchers. The academy was responding to an increase in crime-lab scandals and hundreds of DNA exonerations during the past two decades.
The new 30-member commission will be co-chaired by Justice Department and NIST officials. It will include forensic scientists, researchers, prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges, and it will meet several times a year as a federal advisory committee subject to open government requirements.